OK, So what is left? We covered most of the real closers. We covered most of the obvious CLEWS (Closers en Waiting). We covered most of the 100K studs. So, how much farther can we go with relievers that provide value, especially in leagues that use progressive scoring beyond 5 X 5? How many more relievers are worth drafting and playing or stashing even in a 5 X 5? Part One & Part Two of this series.
The answer: I don’t have enough time to rank them all.
This is my last of three articles ranking the relief pitcher position, as next week I have the pleasure of switching over to catcher rankings for MLFS. But, I could talk for a few more weeks about relievers. I’m going to keep this simple and only talk about a few pertinent stats. I’ll talk Saves, Holds and IRS (Inherited Runners Stranded) and of course strike out and walk rates. I’m not going to bring a lot of advanced metrics to this party because these pitchers seldom go more than an inning, and often less than even that. Also, at this level, the guys who collect H, S & IRS are in high leverage situations because they are good relievers, and trusted by their managers. So it comes down to health, opportunity and stuff. It also comes down to which pitchers you think will have the best chance to inherit closer’s roles as the season wears on. I’ll give my opinions on that as we go.
I feel a duty to list the remaining MLB projected closers for teams that don’t currently own an ace closer. They will still be relied on in 5 X 5 leagues as must owns. Yes, Fernando Rodney just won’t go away. Anyone who thinks he won’t finish the season leading the Twins in saves logging well over 20 of them in the process should not hold their breath. We’ve been waiting for Rodney to implode for years now and here he is. It appears he signed with the Twins because he likes the food. “Please pass me a sammich, and the ball. We have a game to close.”
I will list the remaining guys that are just waiting for one of these de-facto closers to fail. Yes, More CLEWS.
I’ll list a few youngsters who may make there way onto the scene in 2018 and may deserve a late round pick.
Finally, I will list some pitchers who have always had far more real world MLB value than fantasy, the specialists. In a progressive scoring scheme that includes value for Holds(H) and Inherited Runners Stranded (IRS), the specialists, especially the lefty specialists (Loogies) are the guys who come in with runners on base and a tough lefty batter at the plate. They are essential to winning in MLB baseball, and should have value in fantasy baseball as well.
This Week’s Trivia Question: What former Cy Young winner was invited to an AL camp this season and could end up closing for his new team? Answer at the end of the article.
Someone Has to Close:
Fernando Rodney, RP, MIN – I pick on Rodney unmercifully, but every season I own him in at least one league or more. Why? Because he gets saves, 39 in 2017. He’s a closer and closers close. He is known for cardiac 9th innings, but when I looked harder at his numbers, he was actually not too bad in 2017. He does have a 4.23 BB/9, but seldom gives up HR (.49/9) and has an elite GB/FB ratio of 1.84 to go along with his usual 10.5 K/9, so he has ways to get guys out too. His 4.1 ERA may have been inflated a bit as his FIP was 2.96. I’ll own him again as his only competition for saves will be Addison Reed, and Rodney seldom gets hurt.
Blake Parker, RP, LAA – Parker is currently penciled in to be the Halo’s closer, as he pitched well in a brief trial last season notching 8 Saves. But he could also be part of a committee with last seasons projected opening day closer Cam Bedrosian, who notched 6 Saves but blew 5, and the veteran Jim Johnson, who always finds his way into saves as well, notching 22 with the Braves in 2017. I can make the argument that all three should be rostered as the other two will be the set up men either way.
Shane Greene, RP, DET – Greene finished 2017 in the closer role and did pretty well notching 9 late season saves. He also stranded 38 of 47 inherited runners; running 81% stranded means he may be asked to come in in the 8th inning to take advantage of that. Alex Wilson is his only veteran competition in the Tigers pen so Greene should be safe unless he implodes.
Kelvin Hererra, RP, KC – Herrera may have had the worst season of his career in 2017, but the Royals have him penciled in to start the season as the closer. Herrera saved 26 games and blew 5 around injuries and a pitiful 2.5 GB/FB rate, 4.25 ERA and 1.348 WHIP. He gave up 1.37 HR/9. Brandon Maurer, the 2017 Padres closer until a mid season trade to the Royals, would be his main competition, however, even though he notched 22 saves he pitched to an ERA of 6.50 with a 1.50 WHIP. He did have a 3.87 FIP, but those are still some gaudy numbers. I’m avoiding both.
Arodys Vizcaino, RP, ATL – Another disappointing pitcher in 2017 after being named the closer. He notched 14 saves and 17 holds altogether but lost his closing gig to Jim Johnson mid season. There is no one looming though to take his gig now unless he implodes again.
Brad Ziegler, RP, MIA – Ziegler notched 10 saves in Miami after A.J. Ramos was traded to the Mets. He has closed before but is not a natural at the position. He doesn’t bring a lot of heat and seems better when used in good match-ups. Kyle Barraclough has been the perpetual CLEW in Miami for a while now but had an off year in 2017 which disappointed me after talking him up so much preseason last year. He was heavily used for a few years prior to 2017, so maybe he’ll bounce back fresh in 2018. If he can put it together, he could extract that closer role from Ziegler and give you the K’s you want from your closer. His 22 Holds in 2017 were in the upper end of holds totals for the season. I’m still on the Barraclough Bandwagon, if there was one, so I’ll still draft him.
Alex Claudio, RP, TEX – Yes, someone has to close in Texas, and Claudio’s 11 saves in 2017 are the most on the current roster. Matt Bush (10 Saves) & Keone Kela (2 saves) are on hand as well, but Bush has failed as the closer before. There is one more surprise possibility we can talk about later. I’m steering clear of this situation.
Santiago Casilla, RP, OAK – Casilla posted another 16 saves in 2017. He could share the role with Treinen if Treinen does not seize it himself.
What to Do With This Guy?
Brad Peacock, RP, HOU – Peacock is an interesting case as he could be a dominant reliever, but just as easily could be in the Stros rotation to start the season. I think he is worth drafting either way as I love his skill set. He does walk a few too many still with 57 walks in 132 IP, mostly from starting, but he also keeps the ball on the ground with elite 1.35 GB/FB and .68 HR/9 rates. Did I mention he also has some upper 90’s heat and finished 2017 with an 11.0 K/9 rate, again mostly in starts. He also posted a 3.00 ERA, backed by an identical 3.00 FIP and a 1.189 WHIP. I’m drafting him either way, but I sort of hope they put him in the pen.
Alex Reyes, SP/RP, STL – Reyes is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, still, after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. The Cards hope to have him topping their rotation for years to come once he is fully recovered. So, why is he on this list of potential relievers? The Cardinals have been expert at easing pitching back into the rotation through the pen after major surgery. Adam Wainwright closed for a while before becoming the staff ace and they have had similar success with other pitchers. They Cards may elect to have Reyes in the pen for 2017 to ease him back in once he returns around May 1st. The Cards don’t have a clear cut closer, though Luke Gregerson has been penciled in on paper so far. Gregerson is a good, experienced reliever with some unspectacular closing experience, and pitched into November last season in the World Series. He should be drafted as well, but it wouldn’t be unheard of to see Reyes take that role and run with it until such time as the Cards insert him back atop their rotation. If it is a keeper league, he should be owned anyway, but in a redraft, why not grab him knowing you may have one of the best relievers in baseball in your lineup every day. If he starts……well, you know.
Get a CLEW or Two:
AJ Ramos, RP, NYM – Ramos is a must own for a few reasons. He has been the Marlins closer for several years, notching 27 saves in 2017 both in Miami and in NY (only blowing 3) after his mid-season trade to the Mets. He finished the year as the closer while Jeurys Familia nursed injuries. The second reason is that Familia, the man ahead of him in the Met Pen’s pecking order is a question mark going into 2018. The bad news is that Ramos is a mediocre closer. He walks too many (5.22 K/BB), and his 4.00 ERA (4.03 FIP) and 1.449 WHIP are pedestrian at best and low end for a closer. I could even see Anthony Swarzak passing Ramos on the depth chart. All three should be owned and I’ll try to snag a couple of them.
Archie Bradley, RP, AZ – The once touted starting pitcher prospect has settled in nicely as an elite reliever and one of the must-own CLEWS in baseball. He was 10th in the MLB in IRS + Holds (53) and stranded 28 of 36 inherited runners (78%). His 9.74 K/9 and 2.59 BB/9 are strong, as were his 1.73 ERA (2.54 FIP), 1.041 WHIP and .207 BAA. He keeps it on the ground with a 2.0 GB/FB rate and .49 HR/9, both elite. I’ll own him for sure and would grab him after the second wave of closers is over. He is tentatively listed in a closer committee with Yoshihisa Hirano & Brad Boxberger, but I would own Bradley regardless of his role. Besides, we’ve seen what Boxberger can do when he has a baseball in his hand and is standing on an MLB mound in the 9th. You think Rodney is scary………Bradley and his girlfriend are laughing that one off right now.
Mychal Givens, RP, BAL – Like Bradley, Givens has been flashing elite skills for a couple of years and has settled in as a good, perhaps elite set up man. His 21 Holds were 20th in the MLB and his 51 IRS + Holds were 15th. He also chipped in 8 Wins to your scoring. His periferals were a bit down from 2016, but still close to elite, with his 2.75 ERA (3.65 FIP) 1.042 ERA, .200 BAA, 10.0 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9. He posted an elite 1.3 GB/FB rate but still was a bit homer prone at 1.14 HR/9. He’s got a more than capable Brad Brach in front of him, and Zack Britton on the mend as well, but Givens is a must own, even if only for the counting stats.
Brian Shaw, RP, COL – Shaw has been one of the top set-up men in the MLB for years in CLE, now getting a chance to go an pitch in the mountains in 2018. He does not really profile as a closer, but his extreme GB/FB rate of 3.43 should play well in Colorado along with his .59 HR/9. Shaw was the 26th ranked reliever in our league’s Fantrax scoring in 2017, ranking him above a lot of the closers even though he only notched 3 saves. He also scored 26 holds and stranded 24 of 33 inherited runners leading to a 72.73% strand rate and 50 IRS + Holds. His 8.57 K/9 may not be elite but his 2.58 BB/9 is. I’ll own him in leagues that reward holds and IRS. He is in a deep pen in Colorado, so his path to saves may be a long one with Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino and Mike Dunn all lined up behind new closer Wade Davis. I like his value as a set up man more than as a CLEW.
Pat Neshek, RP, PHI – Most people know how good a reliever Neshek is in the real game, but I think he is a great guy to own in our game even if he is not gathering saves. Neshek fills all the boxes regularly and does it with great ratios, so he should be active in your lineup every day. He was the 18th ranked RP in our Fantrax leagues in 2017 and someone I target in every draft. Based on current ADP, neither Neshek nor the previous pitcher, Bryan Shaw are getting drafted much at all, so they will be there in that last round. I keep saying it but a guy like this will do more for you than a back-up 2nd baseman on your bench will. Look at these Neshek tid-bits: 48 hits and only 6 walks in 62.1 IP. With his 10 K/9 that works out to an otherworldly 11.5 K/BB. He gave up .43 HR/9 and stranded 85% of his inherited runners with a 1.59 ERA and .866 WHIP. He’ll be heavily relied on in Philly as one of only two veteran presences in that pen.
Tommy Hunter, RP, PHI – Hunter is the other vet in the Phils pen and he is a good add as well. Last season he put up 25 Holds and 19 IRS after bouncing back from 2016 injury.
Kirby Yates, RP, SD – Upper 90’s heat and 14.0 K/9. Stranded 88% of inherited runners, but walks far too many and gives up way to many HR due to extreme fly ball tendencies. Needs work on command/control but could be elite soon and steal save chances from Brad Hand.
Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio, RP, SEA – Vincent and Nicasio will fill the box for you, and both have elite walk rates and decent k rates. Vincent posted 29 holds and 25/32 IRS, rating as the 46th best reliever in Fantrax. Nicasio posted 5 wins, 6 saves, 21 holds and 16 IRS. They have Edwin Diaz in their way for saves, so don’t count on them coming here.
Carl Edwards, RP, CHC – Could be anywhere from the top set-up man to closer in a suddenly shallow Cubs bullpen. He could be in a committee with Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop, with Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek all on hand as well. In 2017, Edwards posted up 25 holds, 8th in the MLB, and ranked 35th on the Fantrax Player Rater for relievers, and his 27 IRS was near the top as well. He has elite 12.35 K/9 rates but also walks 5.16/9 far too many.
Tommy Kahnle, RP, NYY – Another elite Yankee reliever who came so close to joining the 100 K club for relievers, missing by just a few sported nearly a 14 K/9. He is far from saves but could make a big difference, especially if Delin Betances struggles.
Nick Goody, RP CLE – Elite K Rates, could fill the hole left by Bryan Shaw.
Yusmiero Petit, RP, OAK – Petit finished 17th on the Fantrax Player Rater for relievers and joined the 100 K reliever club in 2017. He also chipped in 4 saves, 14 holds and was 20/20 in stranding inherited runners. He could factor big in holds and could land some save ops.
Get a Loogie or Two:
Taylor Rodgers, RP, MIN – This is an example of a reliever that can impact the scoring in a progressive scoring scheme that rewards holds and IRS. Rogers is a lefty specialist and does not possess elite K/BB skills. However he is an extreme ground ball pitcher and can get tough lefties out with men on base. In 2017 he compiled an MLB leading 30 Holds and 30/35 IRS (85%), both numbers near the top of the MLB. His 7 wins didn’t hurt either.
Jerry Blevins, RP, NYM – 19 Holds and 36 IRS. He has been an elite Loogie for a few seasons now.
Darren O’Day, RP, BAL – O’Day is a righty but the O’s use him as a specialist, usually coming in with men on base and pitching less than an inning. In 2017 he posted up 17 Holds, 21 of 26 IRS (81%) and elite K and GB/FB rates.
Luis Avilan, RP, CHW – The perfect Loogie. Avilan pitches to high K Rates, Elite GB/FB rates, strands 82% of his inherited runners. He also does not give up HR’s and chips in holds all while keeping up his ratios.
Peter Moylan, RP, ATL – Stranded 49 of 64 inherited runners, leading all of baseball, as did his IRS + Holds total of 73.
Marc Rzepczynski, RP, SEA – Was 2nd in the MLB in IRS + Holds with 64. Stranded 44/52 inherited runners (85%). Did have some high ratios due to a few really bad outings, but he is usually pretty reliable.
Kids to Watch:
Josh Hader, RP, MIL – Elite K rates suds not afraid to use him in high leverage spots.
Jacob Barnes, RP, MIL – Same description as above, plus he recorded 24 holds in 2017, his 2nd season.
Ben Heller, RP, NYY – He may have to wait a while to get his chance, but he could give the Yanks another 100 k reliever soon.
Other CLEWS/Set Up Men to Remember on Draft Day:
Jake McGee, RP, COL – Could be next in line for saves.
Alex Wilson, RP, DET – Could be next in line for saves.
Sam Dyson, RP, SF –
Hunter Strickland, RP, SF –
Dan Jennings, RP, TB –
Matt Bush, RP, TEX –
Brandon Kintzler, RP, WAS –
Ryan Tepera, RP, TOR –
Juan Minaya, RP, CHW
Joakim Soria, RP, CHW
Tyler Lyons, RP, STL
Michael Lorenzen, RP, CIN –
Will Harris, Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, RP, HOU –
Danny Barnes, RP TOR
Matt Barnes, RP, BOS
Shawn Kelly, RP, WAS
Matt Albers, RP, MIL
Don’t Forget About Us: Elite Pitchers on the Mend
Zach Britton, RP, BAL –
Carson Smith, RP, BOS –
Tyler Thornburg, RP, BOS –
Nate Jones, RP, CHW –
Carter Capps, RP, SD –
Seung-Hwan Oh, RP, TOR –
Timmy Lincecum, RP, TEX – Trivia Question Answer: The Rangers have brought Timmy Bong Hit into camp and have stated it is a possibility he could compete for the closer role. Let’s make the team 1st, huh Timmy. At least it will be warmer in FLA.
See you next week when we’ll rank the catchers, our favorite fantasy grunts. Any questions of comments I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or I’ll be on the Reddit fantasybaseball sub most of the day talking baseball.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday March 4th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #103 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Cole Freel. Cole is one of our newest wrtiers at majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Saturday afternoon at 1pm EST.
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